Advent in Snooks Cove, 1871

Hans Rollmann
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On the first Sunday in Advent, 1871, a group of Inuit gathered at the home of Jacobus and Salome in Snooks Cove, southwest of Rigolet. The couple had arrived in this Inuit community from Hopedale in late fall, accompanied by two other couples, Anton and Sophie and Andreas and Magdalene, as well as a woman named Adolfine and several children.
Here, among relatives, these Hopedale people hunted seals.
The life of a hunter had its rewards, but was filled with daily dangers. Jacobus mentions a close brush with death while pursuing seals in his kayak. The kayak filled with water and almost sank. Had Jesus not protected him, so the Inuk believed, he would have lost his life.
"When I reached land alive," he wrote, "I thanked Jesus, who kept me from all danger and whose help I still experience today."

Aboriginal evangelists
The seal hunt and reunion with their relatives in the south were not the only reasons the visitors had come, for Jacobus had also wanted to share his faith with fellow Inuit living near the narrows that separate Lake Melville from Groswater Bay.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Moravian Church, to which these Hopedale Inuit belonged, had made efforts to involve local church members more actively in church affairs and education. Consequently, aboriginal Christians worldwide had begun to participate more fully in their church.
On Labrador's north coast, Inuit preachers likely found inspiration in the example of a native evangelist in Suriname, the so-called "Bush-Prophet" John King. King preached among Creole-speaking descendants of African slaves, and his efforts became known to fellow Moravians through their communications network worldwide, including Labrador.
In Labrador, two Inuit - Daniel of Hopedale and Gottlob of Hebron - had travelled with their families on a missionary journey to unconverted Inuit in the far north in 1867, and related their initiatives in several travel accounts in English and German.
A decade later, Daniel and his brother-in-law Titus, a lay leader in the church in Hopedale, undertook another missionary journey among the Inuit and settlers who lived between Hopedale and Zoar.

Jacobus' mission
Jacobus, likewise, felt moved to evangelize in central Labrador and eventually gathered a congregation of Inuit and Innu, who worshipped with him in the winter of 1871-72. Like many Inuit, Jacobus and his party from Hopedale were musically gifted and had taken two violins with them to Snooks Cove. Here, they practised their beloved Hosanna liturgy for the first Advent Sunday. The Hosanna, written by the 18th-century composer Christian Gregor, was translated into Inuktitut, and performed antiphonally in church and even at the outdoor hunting places.
The Hosanna remains one of the treasured liturgical anthems sung among Inuit in Labrador during Advent.

Advent services
In an account of his missionary travels, written in Inuktitut and later published in German translation, Jacobus speaks of people coming to worship at Snooks Cove from a considerable distance.
One old woman, who had great difficulty walking, made the long journey to attend the Advent services.
"The old woman," Jacobus reports, "who was only able to walk with a stick, felt so uplifted that she returned the two miles home without a stick," filled with joy over what she had heard in church.
Of these meetings, Jacobus remembers particularly the fellowship's intimate feeling of nearness to Jesus. Encouraged by the spiritual support he was able to extend to the people in this region of Labrador, the lay minister decided to continue his mission.
In the Rigolet area, Jacobus also distributed Inuktitut and English literature, which he had brought with him from Hopedale. Inuit in Rigolet were quite literate and maintained instruction in reading and writing through experienced members of their community, who had learned to read and write in the Moravian schools in the north.
On the second Sunday in Advent, which in the Moravian liturgy is devoted to the Second Coming of Christ, Jacobus communicated "serious words" to his listeners, but also "the eternal joy" which believers have in their hope of the glorious return of Christ. Indeed, the Latin word advent, a translation of the Greek parousia, has a dual meaning of arrival, which is celebrated in the liturgy during succeeding Sundays. Advent anticipates Christmas and the incarnation, as well as the final return of Christ at the end of times. Both meanings resonate in the Advent liturgy.

Hans Rollmann is a professor of religious studies at Memorial University and can be reached by e-mail at

Organizations: Moravian Church

Geographic location: Hopedale, Rigolet, Labrador Inuktitut Lake Melville Groswater Bay Suriname Hebron Zoar

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